After more than a dozen years with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union and its mission – whether as a volunteer advocate who served five youth or as a long-standing board member – Dr. Ron Silver of Mountainside has completed his tenure at the helm of the nonprofit’s board of trustees, and now begins a two-year post as Ex-Officio.
Silver said, “As a former dentist, I’ve provided care for many people, but nothing prepared me for the passion I found helping children thrust into the foster system through no fault of their own. The best way to describe my years with CASA is ‘honored.’ I’m honored to have spent five years advocating for as many foster youth and honored to have been part of a Board that shares my commitment to changing children’s lives for the better.”
Executive director Mariel S. Hufnagel noted, “While it is difficult to see Ron hand over the leadership reins after stewardship through unprecedented changes and growth – and on a personal note, the only president I’ve worked with thus far – the knowledge he will remain an active member of the Board of Trustees for two more years as ExOfficio, makes it easier. That, and the fact his successor is not only our current vice president, but also a former CASA volunteer with boots-on-the-ground experience, makes this transition seamless; and, I am hopeful and excited for all that lies ahead for our small-but-mighty organization and the vulnerable child-victims we serve. On behalf of the Board, my staff and our volunteers, I and they, extend our highest gratitude and deepest appreciation for Ron’s years of stellar commitment.”
Taking the reins as president is Anne Collart of Westfield, who trained as a CASA volunteer in 2008 and advocated for her foster youth for two years until permanency was achieved and the case closed. An associate at Gibbons in Newark, Collart joined the board in 2017.
She noted, “I am honored to follow in Ron’s footsteps. This pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for physical and mental health, housing, education and employment – all of which can have an even greater impact on those in the child welfare system. Our staff and volunteers have made great strides in pivoting to be responsive to those needs, and I hope to support that flexibility and innovation as we carry out our mission.”
Newly named vice president Teresa Torres Gould, also of Westfield, and a Realtor at Coldwell Banker, has served as the board’s advocate liaison since 2018, first trained as a CASA volunteer in Connecticut and, upon relocation to the Garden State, trained and advocated for a teen with no one else in his corner – or this country. Four years later, the young man is living independently, no longer in care and the duo remain in one another’s life. Of her new role, Gould said, “It is truly gratifying and humbling to be selected the next Vice President. As a former advocate, I understand the needs of our foster children and have always believed and worked in establishing a safe and stable home for each child. I look forward to continuing that work as well as facing any new challenges that lay ahead.”
Through court-ordered access to foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, CASA volunteers ensure the best interests of youth involved in the child welfare system remain priority as all parties work toward establishing a safe, stable and permanent home. For details on becoming an advocate or trustee, contact Lucia at email@example.com.